The Herald understands the media agency for alcohol giant Lion is currently looking for a new partner to manage its hefty media account.
Data from researcher Nielsen shows that Lion, which owns the Speight's and Steinlager brands among others, spent just shy of $20 million on advertising between August 2018 and July 2019, making this arguably the most coveted alcohol account in the country.
The pitch does not involve the creative side of the business, which remains on the DDB ledger. An example of recent creative work to come from the Lion stable includes a Speight's ad called The Dance, which featured a bloke teaching his mate to dance in the lead up to his wedding.
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In advertising, creative agencies develop campaigns while media agencies develop the strategy to ensure those campaigns are seen by as many people as possible. The media responsibilities have until now fallen to the agency Zenith Media, which has held the Lion account for many years.
However, this now looks set to change with some of the biggest media agency names swooping in for a chance to pick up the lucrative account.
Regular industry sources have told the Herald that PHD, Mediacom, and a collaboration of Publicis Groupe agencies are involved in the pitch.
The Publicis Groupe of agencies include Zenith, Starcom and recently acquired MBM. At this stage, it is still unclear which agency will lead the process but one source suggested it was likely MBM.
It is also understood that UM, a sister agency of FCB, expressed interest in the pitch, but is no longer involved in the process. Lion currently works with UM in Australia and it's understood the agency was interested in extending that relationship across this side of the ditch too.
Due to the ongoing status of the pitch, none of the parties involved have been willing to talk about their involvement - and this also extends to the client.
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Asked to comment on the pitch, Lion marketing director Rachel Ellerm said: "It is our policy not to comment during a pitch process or on our agency partnerships."
Sources did suggest that there are a few interesting subplots at play among the agencies competing for the account.
For starters, the agencies involved provide a spread of the big four advertising holding companies that dominate the industry on a global level (these are WPP, Omnicom, IPG and Publicis).
A source suggested that the client would have done this to ensure that all available options were appropriately considered during the process.
Another matter of intrigue is that MBM has worked closely with independent brewery Garage Project since the company first launched in Wellington. However, this relationship with niche player shouldn't cause too much concern for a commercial juggernaut like Lion.
When UM was still involved in the pitch, some observers also noted that its sister agency FCB works with the Health Promotion agency, which, of course, develops the well-known "Yeah, Nah" moderate drinking campaigns. Given Lion's line of business, this could have made the pair awkward neighbours.
However, FCB told the Herald that the agency was transparent with Lion and sought express permission from HPA before investigating the opportunity to pitch for the account.
It's also worth noting that competitive overlap isn't unusual in New Zealand's advertising market and the major agencies have become adept at creating degrees of separation (through NDAs for instance) that all parties are comfortable with.
The wait now goes on to see which agency claims the account.